How Howard Stern Could Start an Internet Empire

Yesterday’s Howard Stern show appearance came because on This Week in Google, we’d made fun of Howard Stern for using Lotus Notes still and Howard’s geek guru, Jeff Schick of IBM, rose up in protest and invited me in to see how the show uses it.

Start with Stern technology: Schick said they they digitize everything – every show, every bit of audio, every press clipping, even everything sent into the show. They scan all the fan mail. They scan dildoes. This adds up to 100 terabytes of data. That’s stored at Howard’s office in New York (outside Sirius) – which is in addition to the audio that’s stored, of course, at Sirius (and backed up in New Jersey), and in addition to the video archives. Howard’s own 100tb is backed up at Howard’s beach house. Howard’s office has a T1 and business-class cable and a direct link to Howard’s apartment, which also has business-class cable, like his beach house (which has CAT5 cable in every all and multiple wi-fi networks for Howard and guests). Serious shit.

On air, I asked Howard whether all this means that fans will someday have access to it. He said yes. I don’t want to read too much into that but I keep hoping that if Stern leaves satellite, he’ll start an internet empire.

I think the economics work: Stern has proven, thanks to his move to Sirius, that his fans, by the millions, will pay $12 a month to hear him. He can charge less online and make more because he’d own it entirely and his cost structure – technology, programming, marketing – would be far less than Sirius’.

The technology isn’t quite there but it will be soon. We fans need to be able to listen to Stern in our cars in the morning. We need to able to listen to the internet. That is possible today. On the way to the show yesterday, I listened to it on my iPhone. (Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone in case Sirius or Apple cuts it off. But it’s legit; I pay for internet access and use my internet password to get access on the phone.) We can listen to shows we buy on our iPods (but it’s better live). I have no doubt the technology will arrive and soon – but soon enough for the end of Stern’s contract in December? We’ll see.

By the way, I also got to see what they’re talking about on the Stern show when they say “Gary Preview Page 2, second column, bottom, in yellow….” It’s Prophet, the Sirius system for storing and playing all audio and at their consoles they go to a page and there are boxes in color; touch the box and it plays.

Now as for Lotus: In their office, Jeff Schick and a colleague generously spent a few hours giving me a tour of what they can do. I’ll concede: It’s impressive. What impressed me is that IBM integrated the functions of the collaborative, social internet – email, Twitter, wikis, LinkedIn, Facebook, Facebook Connect, directories, blogs, calendars, Skype, bookmarks, tagging – in a way that I wish they would all interroperate: click on a name and get everything about them (contact, place, tags, bookmarks); pull together people in calls or calendars just by dragging them; see how people are sharing your documents; see how people are connected….

Only thing is, IBM had to essentially recreate the internet and all these functions to do that, both so they could integrate it all and so that it could operate behind corporate firewalls. We internet snobs make fun of that, but I understand why they do that. But as we talk about how our internet should operate – how open standards for identity, for example, should work – the irony is that we could look at the interlocked IBM platforms to see the promise of it. It’s closed, for a reason, but it shows what an open structure would look like if it operated on truly open standards. I wonder whether there’s an opportunity for IBM to offer these functions at a retail level.

So thanks to Jeff Schick, I got to see Stern’s technology and IBM’s and get onto the show and so I’ll take back my snickers about Notes, most of them.

Cross posted at Buzzmachine.com

Jeff Jarvis blogs about media and news at Buzzmachine.com. The author of What Would Google Do? (HarperCollins 2009), Jarvis is associate professor and director of the interactive journalism program at ...read more

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